Vegan Food Gifts Giveaway

Grooming Avon & JezebelAnd just like that, the holidays are over! Christmas was a low-key affair at our house. Avon, our 6-month-old kitten, is prone to getting into things that he shouldn’t. So we knew that a tree would quickly be climbed, the lights would be chewed on, and the ornament hooks would be swallowed. Instead, we put up a wreath, and that was it.

I usually get into making Christmas cards and sending them out, but this year I took a pass on Christmas, and you know what? It was wonderful. When Christmas was over, there were no ornaments to pack up or boxes to put away. I simply found room in my cupboards and closets for gifts, and that was that.

Sleepy AvonSleepy Avon 2Since Avon is endlessly interested in ribbons and string, I put off wrapping presents until Christmas Eve when I could just transport wrapped gifts to our car outside. David and I filled the day making food for Christmas, so that we wouldn’t have to spend any of the holiday in the kitchen. David baked a few pies, and I worked on some handmade Christmas gifts.

Vegan Food Gifts by Joni Marie NewmanThis year I gave two handmade gifts, both from ideas/recipes in Vegan Food Gifts by Joni Marie Newman. Vegan Food Gifts came out in 2012, and it’s been on my wish list ever since. It’s filled with the best kind of presents – thoughtful, usable, and made with love.

The book opens with pretty ways to package gifts like making your own envelopes, bags, and boxes. There are printable recipe cards, hang tags, and labels with illustrations by vegan artist, Kurt Halsey.

The recipes include sweet things to give that are fully prepared like Cool Lemon Cookies, Orange Chocolate Linzers, and S’more Brownies. Then there are gifts that the recipient can make with compiled ingredients. That chapter is called “Just Add Water.” In that chapter there are recipes like Sweet Lemon Iced Tea, Double Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Southwestern Three Bean Soup. Each recipe includes ideas on the best way to gift it (i.e. in a box, bag, or jar).

Pasta Basket - Vegan Food GiftsOne of the gifts I made for my cousin was from the chapter on themed gift baskets. I was inspired by the Pasta Party-themed basket. I put together a basket of my favorite polenta, the pasta from a local pasta maker that has been my obsession this year, and a shiny new colander. I included one of the infused olive oils from the book, using a jar I found at TJ Maxx and a chalkboard label from Kidecals.

Infused Olive Oil - Vegan Food GiftsThe infused olive oil I chose was Sun-Dried Tomato, Garlic, and Basil Olive Oil. It’s so simple to make. Just pour olive oil into a bottle along with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh cloves of garlic, and dried basil. I didn’t get to taste it for myself, but it smelled wonderful. It can be served over pasta or salad, used as a dip for bread, or sautéed with vegetables.

Bloody Mary Mix - Vegan Food GiftsThe other gift I made was for my dad, and it was from the chapter on homemade liqueurs, infusions, and mixers. I made the recipe for Bloody Mary Mix. Bloody Mary’s were one of my favorite drinks before I was vegetarian. It’s like a drink and a snack all in one – an adult version of tomato soup with celery, pickles, and olives. Unfortunately, most Bloody Mary’s include non-vegan Worcestershire sauce, which is made with anchovies. This version, though, uses vegan Worcestershire sauce. It also includes fresh lemon and lime juice, which made it taste bright and flavorful. It was one delicious Bloody Mary! (Yes, I did get a chance to try it before giving it away. Priorities.)

The recipe includes a printable recipe card, so that the recipient knows how much vodka to add when making the drink. I took the book to a local print shop and had them print it out on cardstock, along with printing a gift tag for the Pasta Party basket.

Celery Salt - Vegan Food GiftsAlong with the Bloody Mary Mix, I included jalapeño stuffed olives for garnish and celery salt for salting the rim of the glass. I like to use and repurpose my jars.  So for the celery salt, I just used a clean jar that had formerly been used for saffron, got celery salt from the bulk bins, and added a chalkboard label to the outside.

There are so many more gifts that I can’t wait to give from Vegan Food Gifts. It’s loaded with ideas that would be perfect for birthdays, holidays, host/hostess gifts, and presents for people who have a new baby in the house or on the way.

Joni has offered a copy of Vegan Food Gifts for a giveaway! You can start planning now for birthdays and Valentine’s Day. The giveaway is open to readers in the U.S. and Canada. A winner will be chosen at random. Good luck!

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I received a complimentary copy of Vegan Food Gifts and complimentary labels from Kidecals. The thoughts and opinions are totally my own.  Post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos with Cranberry-Orange Salsa

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos with cranberry-orange salsaWhen I was a kid, Christmas records got play all year ‘round. I have vivid memories of summer vacation in t-shirts and shorts making up dance routines to Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with a neighborhood friend. This constant love for the holiday meant that I was making construction paper ornaments and cardboard wreaths while other kids were making slushies and… other things that one makes in the summer. (What do I know about that? I was busy coloring Christmas trees.)

Not everyone in my household was thrilled with the constant supply of holidays.  Although, my brother ended up marrying someone who counts down the days until Thanksgiving, so that she can start the non-stop string of music until December 25th. What can I say? He has excellent taste.

It’s funny how we make arbitrary rules about when things are appropriate. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m often the one bouncing down the Christmas aisles in stores in October while other people are grumbling, “It’s not even Halloween yet!”

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos with Cranberry-Orange SalsaEven down to the foods we eat, holidays are regimented. You don’t see people making marshmallow topped sweet potatoes and green bean casserole in May. Soy nog and all things pumpkin are hardly treats for the Fourth of July cookout. Some of it is seasonality. Pumpkins and cranberries are in season now, and so that’s what we’re having. Marshmallows are in season now, and so… Wait. The marshmallow/sweet potato thing doesn’t make sense on any level.

But more than seasonality, some of it just seems to be yearly preference. There’s no reason that coffee shops couldn’t sell Pumpkin Spice Lattes in June, but people don’t want them then, even if they’re still drinking hot coffee drinks. Cherries have a short growing season but are available all year in the frozen section, but cranberries, not so much. Unless you buy fresh cranberries in November and December and put them in the freezer, good luck finding them once January 1st rolls around.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Cranberry-Orange SalsaSo while you can attain them, grab a bag or two or three of cranberries. Pop some in the freezer and keep one container out for these black bean and sweet potato tacos with cranberry-orange salsa. They have a spicy edge to them and smokiness too by way of the chipotle pepper inside. (If you prefer less heat, remove the seeds from the pepper before including it.)

If you’ve never used chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, you’re in for a real treat.  You can find them in small cans for a couple of bucks in most grocery stores alongside the salsas, tortillas, and jarred peppers.  The peppers are swimming in adobo sauce, which has a wonderful smoky quality to it.  I use both a teaspoon of the sauce and one pepper for this recipe.  Like tomato paste, the remaining peppers in sauce can be frozen for future use.

I like to roast the sweet potatoes first before incorporating them with the black beans, so that they can easily brown without having to keep a constant eye on them in the skillet or adding a bunch of oil.

The tacos tick all of the pleasure sensors with smoky, sweet, tangy, and tart, soft and crunchy. A step outside of your ordinary taco, they’re also a way of using holiday leftovers in a unique way.

Serve them now while cranberries are all the rage, or save a bag for July for your own Jingle Bell dance party. Rules be damned.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos with Cranberry-Orange Salsa

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos with Cranberry-Orange Salsa

Yield: 6 Tacos


  • 1 large sweet potato, cut evenly into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 cups (1 15 ounce can) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, seeded if desired
  • 1 teaspoon adobo sauce from can
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup water + 1 to 3 Tablespoons
  • 6 Hard Corn Taco Shells
  • Toppings: (Any or all of the following) Chopped green leaf lettuce, additional raw onion, chopped cilantro leaves, jalapeño slices
  • 1 batch Cranberry-Orange Salsa


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, toss sweet potato chunks with 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil and pinch of salt. Lay the chunks evenly across the baking sheet, making sure not to touch or overcrowd.
  3. Bake sweet potatoes for 20 minutes, stopping once or twice throughout the baking time to toss the potatoes for even browning. After 20 minutes, check to see if they're done - brown on the outside and soft on the inside. If not, cook 5 minutes longer. Once finished, remove from oven and set aside.
  4. In a large skillet, bring remaining teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil to a medium heat. Saute garlic and onion 5 to 7 minutes, until fragrant and translucent.
  5. Add black beans, chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, adobo sauce, cumin, and paprika to the skillet along with 1/4 cup of water. Continue cooking until the beans are heated through.
  6. Add the sweet potatoes to the skillet and fully incorporate with the ingredients. If the spices are sticking to the skillet, add 1 to 3 Tablespoons of water, as needed, until all of the spices are fully incorporated and the mixture is moist without being watery. Taste for salt and add more if desired.
  7. Warm 6 hard corn taco shells on a baking sheet in the oven for about 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Fill the taco shells with the black bean and sweet potato mixture, toppings of choice, and generous spoonfuls of cranberry-orange salsa.

Time is running out on the Christy Robinson jewelry & Upton’s Naturals seitan giveaways! Don’t miss your chance to enter.  Just click on the highlighted names and follow the prompts.

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